Friday, October 29, 2010

Blowin' in the Wind

This week BLEW by!  Literally!  All across the U. S. huge winds seemed to plow the landscape with a vengeance.  Here, JOTOLR, it was a bit less severe, but when you normally don't get that much wind, it becomes an odd "presence."  The wind chimes didn't chime, they clanged and bashed about, almost a rock band by themselves!  Leaves flew, pears thumped down to the ground in a barrage of fruitful artillery.  I was careful not to take a stroll beneath these loaded weapons!

While we did manage to get close to an inch of rain, we are still far behind the "normal" rainfall for October.  The oranges have given way to golds and scarlets, and Halloween is peeking around the corner.  And, this morning, the fire in the Pioneer Maid wood cookstove felt really good!  There's nothing like backing your backside up to a wood stove.

Milking was a bit nippy, and that wind....brrrrr!

Thank you all for stopping by this past week!  For all your lovely comments and comforts.  All you football fans, enjoy!  I don't know how (NCAA) you could top that game last week between Auburn and LSU, though! 

Have a delightful weekend!  See you Monday!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Reds, Yellows, and Fighter Jets

The Dogwood and a Single Pear

Burning Bush

Crown of Light

The Last Rose of Summer

The Big Western Maple

The color palette continues to unfold. In my own back yard, out here JOTOLR!  Our big western maple, with leaves 8 inches across, will be solid gold in a few days.  The Burning Bush simply cannot get any brighter, but it does!  The rose arbor over our east door has seven or eight yellow roses risking frost, basking in late summer.  And the dogwood's fervor is stronger with morning light.  What gifts all these are!  Peaceful, right...?  Well...... 

An F16 fighter jet just roared overhead at about 800 feet and scared the absolute daylights out of me and everyone/everything on this farm and surrounds. 

The sound was deafening, frightening until I sorted out what it was.  My heart took a dive!  

You see, we live on VR1751 where low-flying fighter aircraft can virtually ignore all the height regulations and pummel us with their noise and size.  The sound is deafening.  For years, I waged a one-woman campaign against their ability to fly low here, scaring our livestock, ruining our ears.  I wrote senators, congressmen, the White name it.  And for awhile, it worked.  There weren't as many flyovers.  But, apparently, all bets are off, now.  We're "at war" (yeah, right) the pilots need the practice.  (Yeah, right.)

Do you know how large the defense budget of this country is?  I wonder how many people we could help with that money....

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Alexander (the Great?)

I took this photo last year at this time.  When all was apparently dull and put to bed, this gum tree decided to defy nature and make it's declaration that all was not over...not yet!  And, similarly, this year, it's not over yet.  The splashy sugar maples are still in autumn regalia, unfolding in our yard; the black gums are reddening...and it's still 75 degrees outside!  Good golly Miss Molly!  Will summer never end?  For those who are not winter-o-philes, this is paradise.  For those of us who LIKE winter, this is a desert!

I'm rather ashamed of myself for my protest of  "unfair" (Bad Day post).  So many in this world --and many of you--have lots of consequential things going on that make my whining selfish and blind.  I had no idea what love this blog would generate! 

OTOH, how many of you have read or own Judith Viorst's book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day?  It starts out like this:

"I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there's gum in my hair and when I got out of bed this morning I tripped on the skateboard and by mistake I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

At breakfast Anthony found a Corvette Sting Ray car kit in his breakast cereal box and Nick found a Junior Undercover Agent code ring in his breakfast cereal box but in my breakfast cereal box all I found was...breakfast cereal. 

I think I'll move to Australia."

I love this enduring and endearing book.  As a teacher, I kept a copy of it in all my classrooms, whether they were seniors in high school or first-graders.  You'd be surprised at who read it.  When I was the in-school suspension teacher at Giles High School in Pearisburg, VA, (yes, we had a full-time teacher in ISS) "Alexander" was  available to all who wanted to read it.

Humbly, I thank you all for "jumping to my rescue" and I promise never to flirt with your empathetic feelings and outpourings ever again, unless, of course, there is something serious going on.  I was completely bowled over with your responses to my pitiful little griping!  Again, please accept my apologies!  I am a perennial pollyanna, and this was definitely out of character; but I am going to save any future eruptions like that for something more deserving of your love and kindness!  Thank you, everyone!  I'll catch up with you individually in the Comments column!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

My Bad Day Got Better

Especially with all the sympathy you all gave me!  Thanks everyone!
It was--as my friend Vicki's book is entitled--a Day of Small Things (check out her new book which was released September 28th) by going to her website at Vicki Lane Mysteries   She's gotten rave reviews on it and is currently on the Best Seller list of the Independent Booksellers.

It was nothing major yesterday,  but simply a cascade of events that made me yowl like a cat that had got its tail caught in a screen door!  Compared to others' events, these were, indeed, small things. 

The wind turned out to be an isolated event.  Failed to return despite prognoses that more was headed out way. (thanks for the warning, Thomas!)  Everything stayed calm.  

The Udderly EZ Milker got mailed to the manufacturer after we talked directly with him on the phone.  He's a nice man and his products are Made in the U. S. A.  He's always available for consultation with regard to his product and he's always improving it.  He's going to fix it. Pronto!  And, meanwhile, MM and I are simply enjoying a little longer milking time. 

Both Marigold and the calf act like nothing's a problem with feed.  Pears and 16% dairy feed as usual.  Jessie...well...she comes and goes....  And, the butter? Thanks NCMW!  Your empathy is appreciated.  I never knew this, but on concrete where you've spilled grease--either from food or petroleum, Portland Cement does take it up!  And you know who told me?  My dear husband, MM!  I first washed down the trail I'd left with mechanic's know those orange-colored bottles of goopy soap?  Worked great, but didnt' get it all.  When dry, at MM's direction, I sprinkled Portland Cement over the trail of greasy stains, and voila'!  Gone!  We just happened to have a bag of it from a project we'd completed this past summer.

Nonetheless, I did "hide out" by going to the feed store!  You're right, Barbara.  I needed a "time out."  What that means (aside from getting feed!) is that despite all my proclamations that the color had peaked here in Southern's still breathtakingly beautiful up on Sarton.  Here is still another look:

As, of course, there's always this for hiding out!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Red Sky in the Morning

I should have recognized the warning.  Yesterday's sunrise was brilliant...ominous.  All kinds of little anomalies popped up over the course the day yesterday and continue this morning:  Marigold got crabby and refused to be milked (finally corralled her around 10:30 a.m yesterday; her calf refused to eat the grain he's been eating happily for months; one of the pumps we milk with broke and we're down to milking with one pump; little Jessie is suffering from canine dementia and wavers between some recollection of life as it used to be and general non-responsiveness.  Yesterday, she was working turkeys; today she doesn't remember what a turkey is.  I inadvertently left my newly made butter on the dehydrator.  With the warm air exhausting from nine trays of multiplier onions, the butter melted and --not realizing that it was liquid--I picked it up none too carefully and spilled it all over the concrete.  This is a huge mess that I now need to figure out how to clean.  How do you get homemade butter off of concrete???   And just now, a fierce and continuous wind from the south visited us with no warning.  It had to have been in the 45-55 mph range.  It sounded like a coal train running through the yard as the wind scoured the now-empty limbs.  Our yard is full of large trees.

I think I'm going to hide out the rest of the day!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Odds 'n Ends

The Dye House Update

Certainly the above photo is less than glamorous, but I did want to show you that we're making progress on my dye house.  This past week, based on the maxim of  "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without..." we re-installed the old vinyl floor covering, found the original metal strips for that, moved in the big sink and counter; installed the drain,  also installed the faucet, so water isn't far behind; cleaned all the junk out, hooked up the old kitchen range and found it working perfectly, so it will double as a heater as well as a four-burner, large oven source for all kinds of hot-water projects.  All in all, still have a way to go, but we're getting there!  It will be ready before winter.  It's hard to see, but that bright spot on the back wall is an old fashioned washboard...great for small felting projects.


No picture needed, here.  I'm sure most everyone has a pretty good idea of what crows look like.  On PBS on Sunday, the program, Nature, will feature A Murder of Crows.  (Of course, in the event you don't know...."flocks" of crows are called "Murders"...and we'll find out why by watching!)  Crows irritate me no end!  That's because we have raucous "murders" of the darned things all around us.  Occasionally they gather in groups of about 200 or so, and swarm the nests of raptors with a noisy cacophony.  But they are among the MOST intelligent of all animals in the world.  They have over 250 distinct calls, mate for life, raise their young for as long as five years, and the program should be fascinating.


Well, we've lost a few.  Originally we had 17; then, one died and we went to 16.  Two escaped into the wild.  Two more the tally now stands at 12. They are very difficult in some ways to raise, and easy in others.  They are such engaging birds.  I really hate the thought of Thanksgiving right about now.  


Still making their way south of New River.  The dogs go bananas at their honking.  

Have a great weekend!  FREEZE WARNING tonight.  Move the tender plants inside! Or give it up...finally!   Supposed to get down into the UPPER TWENTIES! Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!  Thank you for all your comments everyone!!  Oh, and by the way, after a little more practicing on the squeezebox...(Debbi, you're a caution!) nobody within miles will be able to beat me at arm-wrestling!
See you Monday!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Musical Surprise!

Out here JOTOLR, you never can tell what will happen next!  The middle of last week, just after I'd posted about making our own music, MM up and decided that we needed a new accordion for Elora.  She got to pick and choose what she wanted, against budgetary considerations that were well within reach.  We checked with several online vendors and located Jack's Music Store in Michigan.  The service was great, prompt, professional and the accordion was priced to fit our pocketbook and to fit me, as well.  Enter the newest member of our musical instrument family which arrived yesterday!  

Isn't it BEAUTIFUL?!

I'm 5'3" heightwise, and don't weigh very much, so needed something smaller than that big old 120-base monster I had been trying to play. I dropped my requirements to the 72-base (that's the number of "buttons" on the base side, incidentally) and I find it to have been a very good decision. It's much lighter.  There are five registers. These are those black buttons on the case in the picture above. They are selectors for tone changes on the piano-keyboard side. I'm fairly clumsy at changing them at the moment, but I'll get better soon!

With the brand new, crisp bellows, it's a challenge for this old lady at the moment. I'm not as smooth as I need to be.  But oh, what an exercise machine this is!  Practice will re-develop my arm muscles and at the same time will loosen up the bellows.  So, I pick it up in the a.m. and the p.m. to...would you believe, PRACTICE!   There's that word, again:  PRACTICE.   My fingers are gradually re-finding the scales on the bass side.  What you don't use, you will lose!  Takes awhile for them to remember what was routine so long ago!  But my progress is rapid and memory is regaining the repertoire of songs I know in my head. So it's also a good mental exercise. 

Some of our fondest memories are of camping (for three months) down the east coast of Australia waaaaay back in the 1970's.  Whenever we would reach someplace where we wanted to spend a few days, we'd find a spot where we could park (and they were everywhere, along with free outdoor showers, campgrounds, or simply wide spots in the road)...and eventually, after camp was made, I would take out my accordion and begin to play.  Gradually people would start to gather 'round.  Some would sing, (Waltzing Matilda and Tie Me Kangaroo Down, were overwhelming favorites), some would talk, some would simply sit and listen.  I'd play for an hour or so, and by then we'd made many friends.

Music IS international.  I took an accordion when we made our way slowly across the U. S., into Mexico, into Canada and it was always welcome.  The accordion is a truly wonderful portable instrument with all your music in one box!  And I love it!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Be Very Careful With Poke!

This is one of the lovely fall decorations we enjoy.  It's called Poke Weed.  Sometimes Poke Salit.
I've always been leery of eating poke greens.  MM begs me each year to relent and try a few.  I have eaten poke greens and they were excellent, I admit.  But I've been scared off by the warnings of their being variously poisonous, yet the "old-timers" of the Appalachians have always eaten poke.  They call it poke salit.  And they swear it's the best of all greens.  So, I thought I'd put a little study into the topic this morning and this is what I came up with...

Poke is a "weed" (only in the sense of its growing where one doesn't want it) and it's a lovely one!  In the fall the 5-8-foot bright red stalks make scarlet slashes in the landscape and the dark purple berries look so tempting. Both are poisonous.  
Now, some of you may know more than I do, and I would love to have you share your experience and knowledge on this topic.  Here's one woman's opinion:

"There are lot of misconceptions about this plant, and a lot of unnecessary dire warnings about how toxic it is. I guess they figure it's easier to scare folks away than to educate them and count on them to do things the right way. How sad.

Here's the truth about poke salat - phytolacca americana.

Poke salat, when it matures, develops purple colorations on its stalk, flower stem, and berries and seeds. It is the MATURE leaves, and purple stem and seeds that contain the poisonous substances. Young plants are safe, as is the juice.

Young poke without any hint of purple makes an excellent dish of greens similar to spinach. It must be parboiled, then should drained well and added to a skillet and fried in butter or bacon drippings. It's a meal fit for a king.

Mountain folk often make a wine from the berries, claiming that a small glass each day helps relieve their arthritis symptoms. They also make a jelly, discarding the seeds. Many southern cities have festivals in honor of poke, and many websites contain lots of information.

Poke plants are spread far and wide by birds who gobble up the berries, then deposit the seeds for miles around. In fact, the seeds are difficult to germinate artifically because they prefer going through the acid in a digestive tract and then get frozen before they will sprout.

Poke root is a herbal remedy that has been used for millenia with excellent results, but can be poisonous when used incorrectly, as sometimes happens with someone who doesn't know what they are doing.

Poke salat has a place of honor in my garden, and in my kitchen. "
Molly McBee

On the other hand, while the wild foods guy, Euell Gibbons--1911-1975, (Stalking the Wild Asparagus) does give credit to the poke as being "potherb par excellence" he gives much detail in terms of cooking it to avoid (his opinion, now) unhealthful consequences:

"Poke can also be prepared as leafy greens, but unlike spinach, it should be thoroughly cooked.  Gather only the young, unfolding leaves at the top of the sprout.  Follow the directions for cooking sprouts and you will have a tasty dish of greens."  Incidentally, Euell Gibbons passed away at age 64, if I recall correctly, in 1975.

Gibbons went on to say that the root, the stems and the berries are poisonous.

The Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs lists Poke Weed as "unsafe" suitable only for decoration.  Here's what this credible source says:  "While people have eaten the tender young shoots, it is best to keep poke out of the kichen.  Even when the leaves are picked young and boiled, they may be dangerous."  Rodales lists Poke as a "dangerous herb."  Here's what it says:  "The word on poke is 'don't' and it should be written in neon.  It has no known good effects and children who have eaten the inky berries have died.  The FDA says "narcotic effects have been observed.  Some have taken poke internally as a combatant for rheumatism, but overdoses have been FATAL.  Pokeweed is not therapeutically useful for anything.  It may act as an emetic and cathartic, but it does so because it is extremely toxic."

Finally, my opinion (Elora, here) is that any green that I have to cook until it is pulp to make it safe to eat, then slather with bacon grease to make it flavorable, and which possibly might be poisonous...I'll stick with spinach and Chinese cabbage, mustard greens,  and turnip greens, thank you very much!  It's a whole lot of trouble to fix poke greens compared to simply stir-frying the well-known green garden goodies.  All this parboiling and pouring out the water, and adding bacon fat in goodly amounts ...guess to me it seems like a lot of botheration. Or, perhaps if one has no other choices for greens, maybe then, it might be time to explore the culinary guidelines in more detail.

But let me know what you think.   

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Farming of the Future

This is almost more than I can swallow.  The last National Geographic featured a one-page piece on the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization's efforts to promote insects as food worldwide.  Yup.  Farming bugs.  Eeeewwww!  Above is a picture of what is sometimes referred to as a Toe-Biter, and otherwise known as the Giant Waterbug, the featured menu item in the article.  Talk about getting off to a bad start in the marketing department.  And they want ME to EAT a Toe-Biter?

For all you weight-watchers, the Nutritional Facts are very encouraging.  Serving size is 100 grams.  (Bug-size not given--generally thought to be around 12 cm.)  Each bug is only 62 calories.  Total fat is 8.3 grams.  Phosphorus 226 mg.  Iron 14 mg.  Calcium is 44 mg.  Carbs only 2.1 grams.  And, finally, protein 19.8 grams.  Now, that's quite encouraging.

It seems that a serving of small grasshoppers has nearly the same protein as ground beef.  And, it doesn't take a genius to understand that it would be a lot cheaper farming grasshoppers than cattle.  Judging by this year's grasshopper population, we could have harvested a lot of protein for free!  Well, kind of. 

Apparently, at least 1,000 species of insects are currently part of the human diet worldwide.  For example, Mexicans liquefy stink bugs for seasoning sauces.  Thais deep-fry the Giant Waterbugs and it's pretty widely known that the Aussie Aboriginines eat ants--said to have a lemony flavor.  Eeeewwwwww!

The article goes on to say that "as the global population nears seven billion, the FAO sees insect farming as a move toward "food security."  Getting Western palates to accept the idea is the biggest challenge.  Duh! 

If anyone thinks I'm going to try bugs on my dinner plate, they've got another think coming.

There was a young man from Mizzou
Who encountered a mouse in his stew
Said the waiter don't shout
And wave it about
Or the rest will be wanting one, too!

Monday, October 18, 2010

We Planted GAHHH-LICK This Past Weekend

From my perspective garlic is an absolute necessity.  It's a kitchen staple.  I can't imagine food without garlic.  Excluding ice cream, that is.  We decided to go whole hog this year and plant a bunch!  The bulbs and cloves are HUGE!

Seed Savers has fourteen varieties to choose from including such intriguing names as Music, Persian Star, Pskem River and Broadleaf Czech.  Of course, there is also Elephant Garlic, which is not a true garlic, but rather a type of leek and much milder in flavor.
Of the 13 varieties of true garlic available from Seed Savers, we decided on two:  German Extra Hardy and Georgian Fire.  The Georgian Fire probably goes back to Russian origin; however, Seed Savers obtained the original stock from the Gatersleben Seed Bank in eastern Germany.  Chefs call it a truly "white hot" garlic.  It has a strong garlic taste and raw is said to be great for salsa and salads.  It's a hardneck garlic, which means it's not braidable inasmuch as the neck (above the bulb) is stiff. 

The other variety, German Extra Hardy also has what is described a strong garlic flavor and is a vigorous grower with deep roots that enable it to overwinter. Our garlic last year was planted in an area of the garden that was too wet, so this year we're moving it to the opposite end. This variety also has a high sugar content and is one of the very best for roasting, and is also a hardneck.

The label that came with each variety has a little history of garlic. It dates to Central Asia about 4000 BC. Among other things, it was fed to pyramid builders, probably for strength, used as currency and found in King Tut's tomb in Egypt. In Rome, it was consumed by Olympic athletes and game cocks, also for strength. And, it was used as a medicine in India and China.

Currently, there are over 600 sub-varieties cultivated all over the world.

From time to time, the supplement industry suggests that ingesting a goodly amount of garlic provides healthful properties that will ward off colds and flu, but there doesn't seem to be much hard evidence for this except for the fact that with a heavy garlic breath, nobody wants to be around you!

If isolation is the price I must pay for enjoying this universal flavor additive, that's just fine with me! 

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Sound of Music

Music is so important.  Out here, JOTOLR, I believe part of being "self-sufficient" is being able to produce our own music.  Good music.  Singable music.  Something apart from the din so much of today's so-called "music" yields.  I guess I'm talking about "the old-fashioned" brand. The Old Millstream, Home on the Range????

My parents gave me the ability to play music. When I got home from school as a child, I wasn't allowed to go out to play with the other kids in the neighborhood.  Nope.  Elora "had to practice her music."  I was not pleased.  Many a tearful afternoon rained on my desire to be "free."   Today, I am grateful for their persistence.  I'm no concert pianist, but I play well enough that the sound which comes out of the instrument pretty closely resembles the notes on the page I'm reading.  I play the acccordion, organ, piano, and an electronic keyboard.  I don't play as often as I should, or as often as MM would like.  (He loves music, loves hearing me play, but doesn't play an instrument himself.) But nonetheless, it is a joy to be able to riffle the keyboard and produce agreeable, gentle sounds that don't mar the ear drum from time to time.

What passes for music these days, has prematurely damaged the hearing capabilities of many young listeners.  Music and melodiousness are one and the same for me.  But so much of what people call "music" these days, is simply noise--and by golly, old washtubs and washboards and pots and pans sound a LOT better by comparison.

I love all the instruments I play.  Each has its own appeal.

Now I know many people make fun of the accordion.  Many a joke has been made about women getting "caught" up in playing the squeezebox.  But I grew up in a Scandinavian household, where the instrument's name was canted a bit to reflect its heritage:  as in "skveeezbox."  Yes...the polka, and schottish, and umpah were all a part of my growing up...accordions were played with sprightly intent and got rave reviews from listeners if one was any good at all.  Of course Lawrence Welk gets some credit (or otherwise...???) here....and would you believe, that if you reflect on what Lawrence Welk did, you'll find he was one of music's greatest ambassadors!

This is my accordion.  At thirty pounds it's a bit heavy for me now, but it belonged to my godfather who played semi-professionally during the 1930's.  I pick it up now and again to play, but it's getting weightier every year!

But, I also love my piano.  Just look at the color (MM and I painted it, and I'll tell you why in a second).

 We bought this old BALDWIN Modello for $75. It's a player piano (no guts to the player part) and though a little out of tune,  not badly so.  Prior to our getting it, the poor old thing had been wasting away in a garage.  Someone had decided they didn't like the black laquer finish, and so had proceeded to START to strip it down to bare wood.  Not a good idea.  It was so ugly!  And the details and crevices still to be stripped and sanded...?  And therein was the problem...starting is not finishing.   So, instead of following tradition, I thought the personality of the instrument would be that of residing in a bordello.  So, what color would a bordello player piano be?  I thought a lusty rose would be particularly appropriate.  TaDaaaaa!

The other day I got to wondering about the player part of the player piano.  You might say I got a case of ARSS--that's Antique Road Show Syndrome!  So, I got on the web (oh how wonderful!) and found a website where I could learn some history about my piano. Enter John Tuttle's Player-Care  What a generous website.  I appealed to him for information about the age of my piano, the value both of the piano itself, and the value of renovating.  He was generous beyond measure.  And here's what he said:  Enjoy it as a piano! Restoration would cost in excess of $7000 and the instrument would be worth around $3500 when completed. Need I say more?You paid a fair price if the piano is in good shape and it holds its tuning.  It was most likely made in the late teens or early 20's.

As it turns out, another  exchange of emails resulted in our nailing the age down to a 1926 serial number.  Serial numbers of musical instruments have been cataloged, and offer clues and documentation to age.

So, there went my hopes of being on Antiques Road Show!  But I still have good music close at hand and expect to continue enjoying my pink piano for a long time to come!

That's it for the week, my friends!  Here it is October 15th and we still have not had a frost of any kind!  Climate change?  I've seen TWO solid black wooly worms so far this fall.  Same as last year.  Hmmmmm.  Gotta keep a close eye on those things!  Here's your sunrise/sunset (who knows which?!) for the week. 
Have a wonderful weekend.   See you Monday!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Living Cathedrals

Oh, my!  I marvel at my own idiocy sometimes...!  How could I for one moment believe that I can truly share with all of you, the incredible beauty that is my homestead and its surrounds right now...short of taking you by the hand and leading you through these living cathedrals!  I am feeling like a dog in the butcher shop!  I know I cannot capture it all...I  know I can't begin to convey the reality, I want every scene in safe in my little electronic miracle-box....and I keep trying to cram every one in
Yesterday we made a trip to the little nearby town of Union, needing some pig feed.  We traveled over Sarton (Mtn)(folks around here don't call it Sarton Mtn.  but rather just Sarton), which is about 300 feet higher than our farm.  The color was truly at peak.  Camera permanently glued to my hand, I was constantly begging MM to stop for "just one more shot" and even the audacity of catching scenes as we whizzed by (my choice..MM would stop anywhere I wanted, as always). 
But alas!  How can these photos, sent to you through layers and layers of electronic gates, even begin to show you true colors, and scenic splendor.  All I can say is you'll at least get an idea of the glory to behold.   For the real thing, though,  you'll have to set foot on the forest floor sometime at Peak of the Leaf in the Southern Alleghenys/Appalachians. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Humble Work of Art

Who would have guessed that a dessicated hanging basket, partnering with the now-brown foliage of the Dusty Miller and an industrious spider, would create this humble work of art.  Finding beauty in simple dimension to each day. 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Appalachian Autumn

It's here....and no words are needed.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Puffball Extravaganza

This is my biggest stainless bowl.  It holds 34 cups of whatever...The eventual yield from the puffballs was three pounds of pure white "meat"....peeled, and root removed.

Here's the basket filled with goodies...

Including this giant, which MM shows off in his hands below...

The cows got there first, but I simply cut off the eaten part, which was pretty shallow, and the rest of the puffball was solid white.

Remember, I mentioned "crazed"...?  Well, this is what I meant.  The skin varies and they're not entirely easy to see out in the pasture.  I also meant to mention that a good time to hunt them is just after a rain.  Not a hard rain....but more like a gentle, soft dampening.
Weather looks mostly nice for the coming week. Even into the 80's.   But I wasn't sure when I saw this cloudscape last evening.  Looked more ominous than it's turned out.

Thanks everyone for visiting me this past week. 
I love you all!  It's Friday...where did it go?!
Have a delightful weekend!
See you Monday!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Sorry for the Disappearing Act!

My computer needs a little help, but my computer man got tied up yesterday.  It will be tomorrow at the earliest when I can download photos from camera to computer.  The downloading mechanism decided to stop working.  A part is needed.  My trusty CM has it.  He's in high demand, though, and I'm just glad he can fit me in!  So, only  a last year's photo for today.

Tomorrow I'll share more puffball photos.  You won't believe the haul we made yesterday!  I've never seen so many.  But I need to wait until the computer is repaired.

Since I've got no photo, I want to mention something I've been thinking about for quite awhile, brought to mind this morning, and doesn't require a photo.

We heard a siren this morning.  Out here, JOTOLR, a siren is an odd sound.  In the world of TV cities, it seems there are always sirens screaming in the background. Nobody even notices.   It's the way of life in urban clusters.  But out here, the sound of a siren stops everyone in their tracks.  Collectively, we lean on our shovels, listening intently to determine where it's going, what direction it's heading; we crane our neck toward the one-lane road to see if we can glimpse the flashing light and know the color of the vehicle, the lights--red? blue? yellow? We wonder aloud whether it's a fire truck, an ambulance or a sheriff's car, racing toward some disaster.  The worst thing is that we'll probably know whoever it is that requested a rescue.  Not that one is any more sympathetic with someone known than unknown, but closer to home touches the heart directly.  Most of us, out here JOTOLR, consider ourselves pretty self-sufficient.  But there are times -- and MM and I have been in a couple--when you simply cannot help yourself and you need to call for those who can. Usually, that call involves the volunteer fire department.  And believe me when I say how grateful we have been to see those flashing lights coming in our driveway.   

I don't know where the siren went this morning.  I finally lost track of it as it took a road that skirts our farm and the sound stopped.  I never heard it again.  But, someone, somewhere needed help.  I am sure they got it.  I just hope it was in time.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Puffball Season

It's that wonderful time of year!  PUFFBALLS!  And you thought they were just for kicking, didn't you!  Oh, woe betide anyone who would consider such a dastardly deed!  This, dear friends, is an epicurean delight! 

Puffballs are 100% edible, providing you eat them when there is  absolutely no brown whatsoever when you cut them open. In the last day and a half, I have harvested perhaps five pounds of these beauties, and after sauteing in butter, have popped them into the freezer for later use.  Talk about delicious!  Oh, my!  And so "meaty!"  That's a quarter in the photo above (and I am using an old photo since I cannot download images until after my computer man visits me tomorrow)...

I've never figured out the paramenters for finding them.  I simply stumble upon them out in the grazed pastures.   When I find one, I am usually in a mini-patch of them.  I simply take long walks with the dog, basket in hand, and gather as many as I can find.  Today's harvest brought three that were each 4 inches in diameter. 

Take a brush, prior to peeling and get as much dirt off the rootend as possible before cutting and discarding it. (If you don't take this step, the dirt gets into the "meat" and it's challenging to remove it. Next, having brushed it thoroughly,  cut as low as you can toward the root end, making sure there is no color other than PURE white--to remove the root.  If you do encounter color, keep cutting off the root end until you see no color. If you find the puffball to be fairly moist, and a yellow-ish center, discard it.  If there is lots of brown and the color continues to the top, throw the puffball away, but in a spot where the spores will propogate.  Don't throw it in the trash!  You're wasting those spores if you do.

Once you've cut off the root end sufficiently, peel the puffball with a potato peeler.  Then, slice it into small pieces, melt butter in skillet, saute, and add to any dish which calls for mushrooms, or freeze it for another day.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Readying for Real Wool

 This is the time of year when I start to plan my winter hobbies...the things that keep me from going stir-crazy when outside time is curtailed.  Below is what I was working on this past weekend.  This, is where real warmth begins!  Wool.  Real, honest, wool.  From this luscious fiber I will be able to do a considerable amount of handspinning, and the roving made from it will be perfect for outerwear items--who knows what all!  The wool at this stage is still "in the grease" and is a whole fleece.  It's the fleece of the mean old Leicester Longwool ram we had for awhile! (He's gone on to his just reward!) 

We're talking here about REAL wool.  Not the petroleum-based, acrylic yarn that offers no warmth.  Warmth radiates from real wool.  You wrap a frozen hand in real, uncompromised wool and instantly the live warmth  of the fiber starts to penetrate and ease the bite of the cold.  When I say "uncompromised" I am referring to synthetic blends. 

The long shadows have crept over three of the fleeces last evening which I had put in the sun all day to air out before sending them to Hidden Valley Woolen Mill in Wisconsin.  I am sending 75 pound in the first shipment to Carol Wagner and her family who own the mill.  Hidden Valley Woolen Mill   They do a beautiful job of processing, which, in this case, means washing and combing the fiber to remove chaff, wash it to lovely cleanliness and "comb" the fibers into continuous strands which I will eventually handspin into yarn of many different diameters and quality.  the 75 pounds will yield somewhere in the neighborhood of 40-50%,,,meaning, that for the 75 pounds, I will net out about half.  The other half of the weight is the grease (lanolin) and fiber that the mill removes.
Here is one fleece.  Its weight is approximately 12 pounds.
It takes a BIIIIGGGG box to ship 75 pounds of wool!

I'm also readying the cottage where we used to live while we were building our house, to become a dye kitchen.  I'll show it to you as I improve the space!    Right now, it's quite a mess.  It's actually an old granary, built in the early 1900's.  MM and I lived in it for a number of years as we were building our house.  It used to be cute and cozy, but over the years, it's become a junk storage area, and I've now culled the "keeps" from the "nots" and  I'm on my way to re-installing the linoleum (a plumbing leak last year made a total wreck of the floor, so I am in the process of replacing it.)  And, of course, it needs a good sweep-down and vacuum job!
This is my restaurant-sized stainless steel sink and countertop, which we'll install in the kitchen when I've gotten all the junk out!
I was going to show you a photo of my spinning wheel and some of the beautiful yarn the LLW affords, but for some reason I am unable to upload any more photos.  My computer is telling me it can't do, we shall see.  I'll share more on this as I am able! Need to call Frank,The Computer Man.